It is a confusing and frustrating time to be an American. And being an American youth is the most confusing role of all. In the four years of the 45th president’s term, our democracy was gradually taken from us even as the thieves absconding with it called themselves “patriots.” A patriot does not seek to undermine their country’s Constitution.
This all came to a head when number forty-five directed his followers to storm the Capitol. They compared themselves to our founders.
Our founders built our government. Forty-five and his minions sought to demolish it.
The people who stormed the Capitol are traitors, trying to upend a democratic election. What really motivated these people, and all the people who support number forty-five?
The answer is hate. Number forty-five promoted hate from the moment he took office. It’s like when Voldemort took over in Harry Potter.
But this vile man did not invent greed and hate. These things have festered in America since it was founded. Number forty-five made it safe for too many of our citizens to reveal themselves in a way that shocks us—but it should not surprise us.
Our country was flawed from the start. We stole land from indigenous Americans and slaughtered them. We kidnapped human beings from Africa and enslaved them. We denied women the right to vote.
Thomas Jefferson, primary author of The Declaration of Independence, enslaved over 600 human beings during his life—some his own children.
We have continually dehumanized and tortured people. Look at George Floyd. Look at the children in cages at our borders. Hate has been continually cooked on the stove of American culture. Every time it has come to a boil, we’ve lowered the heat, but we have not extinguished the flame. What will we do this time?
There is no stolen election. That lie that was propagated by a narcissistic leader who could not admit his own defeat. Now we have a new leader, but the country is torn apart. It will take much work to mend what’s broken—not just stick a bandage over it.
Study history so you can learn about humanity—flaws and all. Be aware of what came before so that you can positively impact what comes next.
The power to banish hate in America rests in your hearts and hands. Love trumps hate.
Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning, acclaimed author of five books on the American Revolution for young readers, including The Founding Mothers of the United States (Scholastic) and Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette (Calkins Creek Books). Her upcoming books include The Civil Rights Movement: 1960 (Scholastic, 2021), Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the End of Slavery in America, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (Calkins Creek Books, 2022) and Boy Meets Groove: Savion Glover Finds His Funk, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Holiday House, 2022). Selene has been a meticulous researcher of American history since 2003. A frequent speaker about our nation's evolution, she is equally comfortable with audiences of children and adults. Please visit: selenecastrovilla.com.
“My heart was enlisted,” the Marquis de Lafayette wrote in his memoirs, “and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries.”
Who were the revolutionaries Lafayette referred to? Americans, bien sûr!
Lafayette was just 19 when he paid for his ship, hired a crew and set sail from France to attach his colors to ours. He defied his king, who denied him permission to leave, and left his pregnant wife and child behind.
Seasick every day of his month-long voyage, he nevertheless learned English along the way. Docking at Charleston, NC, he trekked hundreds of miles to Philadelphia, suffering a month of broken carriages, lame horses, and nightly mosquito raids. He remained buoyant, and dedicated to our fight.
Finally at Continental Congress, he enthusiastically introduced himself—only to be turned away. There were too many foreign officers, they told him.
S'il vous plaît, Lafayette pleaded. He’d come so far—and he would work for free.
They accepted his services, but refused to give him what he yearned for: troops to command.
At least Lafayette could stay—and meet his idol, Commander-in-Chief George Washington!
Lafayette felt an instant connection with Washington, who invited the young Frenchman to live with him. Washington was diplomatic. He knew Lafayette was of noble descent, and he needed France’s aid in order to win the revolution. But Lafayette mistook the invitation for affection. “I am established in his house, and we live together like two attached brothers…” he wrote his wife.
It wouldn’t be long before Washington felt genuine affection for Lafayette. As the situation in Philadelphia grew dire—they were surrounded by the British and awaited an inevitable attack—Washington took a moment to have a “great conversation” with Lafayette. Think of me as your father, he told him. Lafayette was touched in the deepest way.
At the Battle of Brandywine, the Americans were overwhelmed and defeated. Our soldiers panicked—deserting their lines. Lafayette requested permission to rally the troops. Though he feared for Lafayette’s life, Washington granted his wish.
Lafayette’s great spirit convinced the troops to stay. The Americans still had an army, to fight another day. A musket ball ripped through Lafayette’s leg! He eventually collapsed. Back at headquarters, Washington instructed his personal physician, “Treat [Lafayette] as if he were my son. For I love him the same.”
The father/son relationship of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette developed while they were under British siege. A multiple award-winning choice in history books for kids, and a compelling account in American history by a research-loving writer!
You can buy it here.
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